Loch Lomond National Park, National Museum of Scotland roof garden, red squirrels, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Trossachs
Most of us crave the familiar. The security and safety it brings, the sense of belonging and rootedness to a place. There is something very comforting about walking a path that is so well trodden you feel you know every twist and turn, every little patch of hedgerow, every tree. Then there are times when all you want to do is get away, when the familiarity of the daily routine has become claustrophobic and a change of scene is needed.
Wellyman and I had both got to that point several weeks ago but he had an exam to revise for which meant any get-away had to be put on hold. Wellyman is studying for an Open University degree. It’s a part-time course and he’s fitting it in around his job. It’s not the quickest way to get a degree, taking six years in total and it has been a huge commitment but he’s getting there with only 2 years left now. I’m immensely proud of the work he’s putting in but there is a collective sigh of relief when he finishes each year and there’s a three month break before the next one starts. So as soon as his exam was over last week we were off for a short break to Edinburgh.
When we left Wales it still felt like summer, mild and sunny, but it was distinctly autumnal by the time we’d reached Edinburgh. Leaves were swirling around in the wind coming in from the North Sea which had an icy chill that I remember from my days as a student in Newcastle. I’m not really a city girl, too much traffic and concrete make me feel uncomfortable but Edinburgh is such a green city and I was surprised at how at home I felt there.
We were staying in a leafy suburb which turned out to be only a ten minute walk away from the Royal Botanic Gardens. I’d love to claim that it was planned that way but it was a happy coincidence. The gardens themselves are free, you just pay to enter the glasshouses. The 70 acres of grounds felt much more like a park with a stunning collection of trees. What an amazing resource to have on your doorstep for free. The glasshouses were impressive and so toasty and warm it was tempting just to stay in there all day. I wonder if, as the weather gets colder, the staff engineer all sorts of ways to make sure they can work inside, in the warmth?
Later that day we were seven floors up on the rooftop garden of the National Museum of Scotland taking in the impressive view across the skyline of the city. I’m not sure how many of the tourists noticed the planting around the edge of the viewing point, the castle being the main draw, but it was an interesting addition showcasing plants from Scottish habitats with coastal plants, alpines and a planter featuring species adapted to boggy conditions. If I was a plant though I think I’d rather be one of those in the warmth of the botanic garden’s glasshouses.
On our last day the countryside outside the city was calling. Only an hour or so north was the eastern edge of the Loch Lomond National Park and the range of hills known as the Trossachs. The scenery was stunning with the burnt umber colour of dying bracken spreading across the hillsides, the yellowing leaves of birch and beech and tumbling waterfalls. The highlight of the day and an unexpected treat was seeing red squirrels. The visitor book attested to the fact that they were there but after sitting in the hide for 20 minutes or so we started to think it wasn’t going to be our day. Then Wellyman whispered ‘SQUIRREL’ and there it was scampering around collecting nuts and burying them. They are such delightful creatures which can’t fail to make you smile especially when all you can see is their big bushy tail sticking out of a bird feeder. It’s only the second time I have seen red squirrels, our native species which is under threat from the non-native greys.
I have never seen trees covered in so much lichen. They were dripping in them. And there were fungi dotting the forest floor and clinging to the sides of trees, species we had never seen before. At one point we came across a mossy area covered in clumps of black. They looked like piles of cow dung but on closer inspection we could see they were fungi. It was a stunning place, somewhere which left us wanting more.
Long journeys are fun when you’re travelling to your holiday destination, the return however is nearly always a bind. Misty and murky weather, heavy traffic and hour upon hour of motorway provide too much time for thinking with that post-holiday clarity that makes you question where you’re going and what you’re doing. Holidays provide a change that we’re craving, change can be unsettling though and I guess that’s why many of us have post-break blues. It’s generally not long before fanciful ideas of packing up and travelling or moving somewhere else get lost in the routine of daily life. But time away can make us see the familiar in a positive way too. We were only away for 4 days but the seasonal difference was quite distinct on our return. The garden we left had been clinging on to summer remarkably well. Looking out of the kitchen window this morning it is clearly autumn. The Virginia creeper is turning red, as is the liquidambar. The thin strap-like leaves of Anemanthele lessoniana have tinges of orange and there is a soggy look of decay to the herbaceous perennials, but still no frost means Verbena bonariensis and cosmos are providing shots of colour. These changes wouldn’t have been nearly so distinct if I had been staring at the garden every day. Seeing the seasonal evolution in the garden has also triggered a sense of urgency to tackle my list of jobs before my inclination for hibernation takes over completely. Now if the weather would oblige with some dry days that would be much appreciated.
I’ve never seen anything quite like that black fungus before. Glad you had a good holiday, I’ve never been to Scotland but I always hear how beautiful it is from those who have been, I really should make more of an effort to take a trip there.
It was a very weird fungus. Wish I knew a bit more about them. Scotland is quite a trek for us but worth it. I think we might well be back there next year.
i love the pineapple yellow of that delicate little leaf- a birch tree perhaps.Those rich yellows and the orange-red of creepers are the colours that make the seasonal change more than bearable for me. But I do need some dry days to finish putting the allotment to bed and to plant the shallots that have been sitting here for over a week.
Dry weather and western Britain don’t seem to go together. My garden just looks soggy and the next week or so don’t look too promising. Oh well, guess I’ll be digging out the waterproof trousers. 😉
Lovely place to appreciate autumn. A year or so ago we stayed in a cottage on the banks of Loch Ness and had deer in the garden too/
There is a red squirrel reserve in Formby Lancashire if you wabr ro see lots of reds.
I have never been to Formby but have heard about the squirrels. Such cute little creatures I could watch them for hours. Scotland is so beautiful at this time of year. The mild autumn so far means it felt like autumn was just starting really. I can only imagine how gorgeous it will all look in a few weeks time.
Having just come back from Edinburgh today I wonder if we passed each other in the Botanical gardens? I shall have words with my sisters, though, who failed to tell me that there were GARDENS on the roof of the museum – it had already taken them a very long time to work out that I really HADN’T been with them the time they and our mother had been up on the roof there, but did they mention gardens? No! Glad you enjoyed your visit too.
Oh wow! Maybe our paths crossed. I didn’t know either until we got up there. I’m not sure how new they are. I visited the museum when the new bit was first built and don’t remember being able to go up to the top. We had a lovely time and hope to get back there soon. 🙂
Good to hve a break, and good to be home again – that’s as it should be. While we were at Pensthorp (where they breed red squirrels for release back intot he wild) they told us tht loss of habitat was just as much of a problem as the grey squirrels are (they always get the blame but it seems they aren’t entirely to blame, WE are, us humans!
Yes, us humans tend to be to blame. We introduced the greys as well so I guess we’re doubly at fault.
Its good to get away sometimes and also time away makes you glad to get back home. Sounds conflicting ideas but I do know exactly what you mean. I love your photo of the red squirrel, they are so lovely to see. Aah you’ve given me a yearning to go up to Scotland.
🙂 We had such a lovely time and can’t wait to get back there again.
A most enjoyable, and interesting, post.
It’s a long time since I visited Edinburgh and the RBG, which always I enjoyed.
I’ve started winding down but there still a few things I want to do on the plot weather permitting. xx
Thanks Flighty. I loved the RBG and the fact they were free too. Such a lovely place for people to enjoy throughout the seasons. I did have lots of plans for the garden but Wellyman had some news on his return to work which means those are all up in the air now. Still, lots of tidying up to do which I need to get on with. Always find the motivation a bit hard to come by when it’s cold and damp outside. 😉
Spectacular fungus, and I am so jealous of your red squirrel sighting, I’ve not seen one since I was in my late teens. Edinburgh is a wonderful city, but I remember how cold that wind gets from when I spent a year at the University. I loved being able to walk up Arthur’s Seat any time I wanted, but having no interest in gardening at the time never actually went to the Botanic Gardens!! Hope you get your fine weather, the chores pile up and the pressure of approaching winter makes it potentially frenetic, all the more important to enjoy those special Autumn sights and smells because before we know it we will be hunkered indoors waiting for Spring.
The last time I saw a red was at Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District but that was about 12 years ago. I could sit and watch them for hours, they are such funny creatures. We didn’t do arthur’s Seat. We thought we’d save some things for our next visit. The gardens were lovely and free. I’m rather jealous of the locals who have them on their doorstep and they can wander around whenever they want. I had lots of jobs planned in the garden. A bit of a border redesign is needed but then OH had some news on his return to work which now means everything is up in the air. I think I might be planning for a move now.
Goodness, that is exciting and unnerving at the same time, I hope the news for your OH was good not bad, jobwise.
Not sure yet! Just the idea of entering that limbo state of not knowing is going to be very frustrating. I might be needing tips on how to move a garden. 😉
You’re right about the difference that a few days makes to the scene around us, Welly – every week there’s change in the gardens at college! For me, it’s one of the real privileges of studying in the Capel Manor gardens that I can see the trees, shrubs and planting throughout all the seasons; it really does make me stop and enjoy the moment, so much beauty everywhere at this time of year! Your weekend away sounds ideal – just enough time for a change of scene without losing touch with reality! Edinburgh is such a beautiful city, but your garden needs you! Nice to catch up with your news!
I enjoyed that aspect of being at college too. It was a lovely weekend, although I quite like the idea of losing touch with reality. 😉 But you’re right my garden does need me. Better get those wellies on!
I loved every minute of it. Shame it had to end so quickly 🙂
Your little excursion was very enjoyable, thanks for taking me along too. The National Park sounds like a very peaceful place. A friend of mine once couldn’t sell her house to a woman because the latter thought the air was polluted when she saw all the lichens hanging in the trees. Only goes to show how far some people have removed themselves from nature.
Thank you Annette. Yes it is a very peaceful, tranquil place. How strange to think lichen was caused by pollution. I know a lot of people think it damages trees and try to get rid of it. Strange, because I would love a tree in my garden that was covered in lichen, it’s so beautiful.
Sounds as if you both had a good break WW. My garden always stays in suspended animation in my imagination when I’m away, so always surprised about what happens in my absence. I also think that you look at everything more closely on your return but there has indeed been a definite turn to autumn in a short time. Have only been to Edinburgh once but would love to return – have vivid memories of the glasshouses in the Botanical Gardens. As for those chilly north easterlies I’ve never forgotten them. You, me and Veg Plotting all former students in Newcastle 🙂 On the plus side I shivered a lot but did not catch a single cold for four years – moved west and then one sneeze after another ensued for several years!
You were in Newcastle too. 🙂 I’m from the area and love the place but yes that cold wind whipping up the Tyne. *shivers* They breed them hard up there. I use to go out on a night with only a light jacket, even in winter. I wasn’t as bad as the girls you see in just a tiny dress. But now I’d need all sorts of layers. :0 I know what you mean too about the west. The damp cold in the west is not something I like at all.
You seem to have had a lovely time in Edinburgh, beautiful city. Your photo of the red squirrel is beautiful, we have just seen them on the Isle of Wight where there are no greys! We used to live on the NW coast before coming to Devon and had red squirrels in Formby, a favourite place to visit. They were almost wiped out about 10 yrs ago, but are recovering their numbers now that the greys are culled.
I didn’t know they had reds on the Isle of Wight. Another reason why we should try and get there some time.
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